Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October Mini Reviews (In the Shadows + The Young Elites + The Perilous Sea + Don't Touch)

As seems custom with me as of late, I've got a bunch of reviews to share with y'all. Still trying to catch up, but these are a batch of really good reads that I hope you get a chance to try for yourself (all their release dates have now passed!). In the Shadows written by Kiersten White and illustrated by Jim Di Bartolo, The Young Elites by Marie Lu, The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas, and Don't Touch by Rachel Wilson are all highly recommended.

In the Shadows - Kiersten White & Jim Di Bartolo | Goodreads
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Published by: Scholastic

From the remarkable imagination of acclaimed artist Jim Di Bartolo and the exquisite pen of bestselling author Kiersten White comes a spellbinding story of love, mystery, and dark conspiracy, told in an alternating narrative of words and pictures.

Cora and Minnie are sisters living in a small, stifling town where strange and mysterious things occur. Their mother runs the local boarding house. Their father is gone. The woman up the hill may or may not be a witch.

Thomas and Charles are brothers who’ve been exiled to the boarding house so Thomas can tame his ways and Charles can fight an illness that is killing him with increasing speed. Their family history is one of sorrow and guilt. They think they can escape from it . . . but they can’t.

  • Something you might not realize about In the Shadows is that it has parallel stories told in both art and written word - chapters worth of art, mind you. The effect of this decision is to make In the Shadows much more epic in scope than if it were told by either art or written word alone. Also, the book is so gorgeous that you immediately will want to buy it if you like the story. Have you seen Jim Di Bartolo's art? It is AMAZING. I seriously had the temptation to rip out pages and plaster them all over my wall because... gorgeous. Also Kiersten White's chapters were framed by a beautiful border that accentuated the art and I too was tempted to make some sort of word and art collage on my wall. The book is gorgeously designed and gorgeously illustrated and gorgeously written. I've liked every one of Kiersten White's stories that I've read because her writing style is fluid and witty and easy to read, and here it is no different.
  • At first having the two stories is a little disorienting because they are not on the same time scale nor do they have markers for which character is which, but you start to pinpoint specific details in the art story that align with the written story... and the amazing thing about having the parallel narratives is that they're so well-plotted, they follow a similar plotting scale; that is to say, the rise and fall plot, with both the stories converging on a single climax and merging very well at the end. The effect is also so well done that you want to revisit the art after you've finished the story and look into the written word story for the very details that you start to pick up on in the art story. Including both art and word allows for a good mix that creates the kind of suspense which White and Di Bartolo want to build.
  • Another effect of the alternating art and written word narrative is that this book is SO easy to read. SO fast-paced. I'd have read forty pages despite the small time period I had allotted for reading. In the Shadows encourages you to savor the art and look more into the details, but also encourages re-reading and keeps your attention hooked until the end. White and Di Bartolo end their chapters with well-plotted cliffhangers. Kiersten White had a small amount of space to describe her characters and she did a great job making them recognizable yet unique to their individual circumstances. It's remarkable how much she accomplished in so few pages.
  • I hope more stories are told like this, but if not I'll be happy enough to keep this one alone in my personal collection. If you're a fan of paranormal romance / adventure / gothic horror / urban fantasy with a historic twinge, you'll like the alternating art and written word cross-genre narrative from White and Di Bartolo.

The Young Elites - Marie Lu | Goodreads
Release Date: October 7, 2014
Published by: Putnam

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

  • The way I think of the Legend trilogy is that it is a very solid, well-executed set of YA dystopian novels. Characters, plotting, themes, action, etc. I think of The Young Elites in a similar way. Marie Lu has succeeded in creating another solid, well-executed YA high fantasy with a pseudo-Renaissance feel.
  • As with the Legend trilogy, there are plenty of plot twists. Adelina's character growth is expertly mapped alongside the changing political landscape and the uncertainty of her powers. Although the powers each Young Elite holds are not, per say, new to fantasy, Marie Lu has managed to make them feel fresh with the way she introduces you to her fantasy world, adding her pseudo-Renaissance feel (and expansive world-map) as a layer atop the characters' burgeoning ambition and responsibility.
  • This book is one of many YA fantasies being compared to Game of Thrones. I considered writing a post about how that very comparison NEVER works for me because one caters to the young adult audience and the other to adults and though there is reader overlap, YA books are much more censored and thus limited in what they can include. However, Marie Lu's books genuinely reminded me of Game of Thrones; the comparison feels much more accurate to her book than other YA novels and that is because of the abundance of political intrigue and alternating character perspectives
  • The political intrigue keeps you on edge and it's hard to predict where the story is going, but it is also grounded in the very real desire to belong. Although I've seen Adelina referred to as a villain, it is her very desire to belong that makes her feel more like an anti-heroine to me. She is a sympathetic, intriguing main character whose arc I am looking forward to reading in the future. Her "realness," for lack of a better description, along with her bond with her sister, (a la Cruel Beauty) are what I suspect will make this fantasy easy to read even for readers who are not fans of high fantasy.

The Perilous Sea - Sherry Thomas | Goodreads
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Published by: Balzer + Bray

From acclaimed author Sherry Thomas comes the striking sequel to The Burning Sky, book two in the Elemental Trilogy, for fans of Cinda Williams Chima, Rae Carson, and Kristin Cashore.

After spending the summer away from each other, Titus and Iolanthe (still disguised as Archer Fairfax) are eager to return to Eton College to resume their training to fight the Bane. Although no longer bound to Titus by a blood oath, Iolanthe is more committed than ever to fulfilling her destiny—especially with the agents of Atlantis quickly closing in.

Soon after arriving at school, though, Titus makes a shocking discovery, one that makes him question everything he previously believed about their mission. Faced with this devastating realization, Iolanthe is forced to come to terms with her new role, while Titus must choose between following his mother's prophecies—and forging a divergent path to an unknowable future.

Sherry Thomas brings her trademark blend of dazzling magic, heartbreaking romance, and exciting action in this striking sequel to The Burning Sky.

  • This entire post is full of well-plotted novels. As In The Shadows alternated narratives, so does The Perilous Sea. (Not a spoiler, I promise). The very first chapter starts with an undefined timeline; Thomas alternates this story line along with one more familiar to The Burning Sky readers and converges them at the explosive plot climax along with a hook that's sure to draw in readers for the trilogy finale. The cliffhangers at the end of each storyline also snare your attention until it's 2 a.m. and you're still reading The Perilous Sea despite all your self-made promises to sleep early. Thomas's writing establishes the historical feel as well as the romantic suspense and action in a heady combination.
  • My major complaint about The Burning Sky had been related to the parallels I'd read in other YA; I wanted the book to embrace more of its unique differences, like the Crucible, and that is exactly what The Perilous Sea does. This book holds no punches. I kept expecting one thing and then was drawn into another twist from Thomas. I quite appreciated how Thomas took a huge risk and diverged from other fantasy books while still embracing other tropes and trends, like continuing to expand upon the elemental-based magic system established in The Burning Sky. It made the book feel familiar and its own all at once. It also allowed for such wonderful character growth for both Titus and Iolanthe that quite endeared me to them both along with their witty banter.
  • The set-up of this book also reaffirms the heart-rending romance established in The Burning Sky. I have not read a single historical romance novel from Sherry Thomas that I have not liked and this YA book is no different. (*Potential spoiler*: In one story line the couple falls in love all over again, reminding The Burning Sky readers of why Iolanthe and Titus made for an adorable couple even without a recap of TBS events. In another they experience such heart-rending emotional turmoil that when they finally solve their problem together, you believe them a much stronger couple for all their struggles). Simply put, Sherry Thomas plotted this book in such a way that she rendered the romance believable, swoon-worthy, and realistic to the established setting. Her plot decisions furthered the character growth and consequences in such a way that I am very eager to read the next installment in this trilogy. A sequel much better than its predecessor.

Don't Touch - Rachel Wilson | Goodreads
Release Date: September 2, 2014
Published by: Balzer + Bray

A powerful story of a girl who is afraid to touch another person’s skin, until the boy auditioning for Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears.

Step on a crack, break your mother’s back. Touch another person’s skin, and Dad’s gone for good.

Caddie can’t stop thinking that if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, her parents might get back together…which is why she wears full-length gloves to school and covers every inch of her skin.

It seems harmless at first, but Caddie’s obsession soon threatens her ambitions as an actress. She desperately wants to play Ophelia in her school’s production of Hamlet. But that would mean touching Peter, who’s auditioning for the title role—and kissing him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn't sure she's brave enough to let herself fall.

Perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson, this debut novel from Rachel M. Wilson is a moving story of a talented girl who's fighting an increasingly severe anxiety disorder, and the friends and family who stand by her.

  • First and foremost this is an excellent portrayal of an anxiety disorder that feels so authentic, the author's candid note in the back made me appreciate the book all the more. We see how real Caddie's anxiety feels despite how she recognizes her reasoning for anxiety as being weird and potentially unrealistic. And still, even as she acknowledges the illogical basis, her emotions and the associated pressure will not fade. Wilson does not at all degrade those who suffer from anxiety disorders nor does she use Caddie's anxiety for the benefit of a thriller, as often happens with books portraying mental illnesses. Simply put I was impressed with how real and authentic this entire book felt.
  • Caddie is a fantastic main character to follow. Her strength is an inspiration. Even as she battles with her anxieties, which get worse with time, she continues to fight for what she wants from life: from the play, her parents, herself as she thinks of her relationships with her friends and family. I loved reading about her character growth. This entire book feels so empowering (her disorder does not define her), and is so important to read to understand the importance of supporting those who are in such a position.
  • The one complaint I foresee about this novel - and really, any novel - is that it takes a while to get started. When I skimmed the negative reviews, they suggested that because of this, the book was boring. For me this was not at all an issue because I was ensnared by Caddie and the promise of romance. Peter is an excellent romantic lead. I have a thing for nerdy guys like him, and the way he acts with Caddie, along with her friends, was one of the best elements of this novel. Support, support, support. I loved getting to read about Caddie's friendships and her burgeoning romance with Peter, the twists provided by the overlay of Hamlet and Caddie's actress ambitions along with seeing Caddie's strength as she dealt with her anxieties. Fantastic contemporary romance with great characters and a beautiful romance to boot.

What do you think? Will you be reading any of these books soon? Have you already read some of these? I hope you enjoy them!

Reviews to come:
-In a Handful of Dust
-Snow Like Ashes
-The Vault of Dreamers
-Reasons to read the series involving The Mime Order & Blue Lily, Lily Blue
and more...


  1. I really want to read The Young Elites, though I'm not the biggest fan of high fantasy, it's just that I love Marie Lu's writing! I haven't read or watch Game of Throne, but I've heard amazing things about it, so I'm even more excited now.
    I'm dying to read In the Shadows, too! Sounds great!

  2. If you're a fan of her writing, she definitely keeps it sharp and action-oriented even for her high fantasy :). I hope you enjoy The Young Elites and In the Shadows!

  3. I adore books with pretty illustrations. It seems I must hunt down a copy from In the shadows! I enjoyed her other books, so I can't wait to read this one :) I will be reading The perilous sea soon. I finally got my copy from The burning sky (Dutch websites are such liars when it comes to delivery time *sigh*) and I can't wait! I wasn't completely sure about Don't touch (or what it was about), but character strength and good development? Yes please!

  4. In the Shadows has GORGEOUS illustrations. I don't have many illustrated books, but this one I bet would top the shelves if I did anyway. Kiersten White's books are very enjoyable. I hope you enjoy the Burning Sky & Perilous Sea... and Don't Touch! I'm glad you've decided to give the latter a chance :).

  5. I LOVED The Perilous Sea, what an incredible sequel! I was impressed with the creative way Sherry Thomas kept Iolanthe and Titus's relationship new and fresh. What a cliffhanger!!! Can't wait for the next one.

    I finished The Young Elites yesterday and I liked it, but I didn't love it because I didn't like one single character. That part reminded me of Game of Thrones (although I have fallen in love with a few GoT characters now). It was a bold choice of Marie Lu to have a MC be an anti-heroine, and I'm wondering if she's going to turn into a villain in the next one. The ending definitely made me want to read the next book, but I didn't feel all the feels because of how much I disliked the characters. Great mini-reviews! (And your mini-reviews are as long or longer as my regular reviews). :) ~Pam

  6. Agreed. Their relationship felt fresh and the plot twist made for a good conflict for extra tension between them... And the cliffhanger was HUMONGOUS. One of the biggest I've ever read o.O.

    You didn't like any of the characters? I do think that I liked Adelina best, but I suppose I can see feeling a little more detached from the characters because they've all got agendas. I do wonder the same thing about Adelina - and if she turns into a villain rather than staying the anti-heroine, I do think that I'd like her even more. Maybe you'll like the characters better in the next installment? Sounds like there'll be an expanded cast.

    And hahaha, yeah, a lot of people have made fun of how verbose my "mini" reviews are. Same with regular reviews ;)


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